TUCSON (KVOA) — June 15th marks the official start of the monsoon in Southern Arizona. However, Tucson and Pima County officials have been planning for the annual rain for months.
This starts with clearing washes and waterways.
"So what we're really looking at is any debris, vegetation, illegal dumping activities," said Joe Cuffari, Program Manager with the Pima County Flood Control District. "We'll go through and make sure those systems are open."
One thing the Flood Control District is watching closely, the Bighorn Fire Burn scar. This fire burned in the Catalinas two years ago.
"We mapped additional flood plains based off the Bighorn fire so we know where we could expect to see flows," Cuffari said. "And again, our infrastructure team has looked at those drainage ways and maintained as necessary."
One of those areas is near Oracle and Ina roads, and the Pima wash.
One of the biggest challenges for county officials is the size of Pima County. It has divided the county into quadrants to provide fast and efficient response to the rain.
"This allows us to have equipment staged in various areas that are strategically placed so we can respond a lot faster," Matt Sierras, Division Manager for the Maintenance Operations Division with the Pima County Department of Transportation said. "We'll have standby personnel readily available after hours. So depending on when the storm hits, we'll have a crew head out there and get the road open as soon as possible."'
Both the city and county work closely with the National Weather Service.
The Pima County Flood Control District manages rain and stream gauges around the county.
Click here for that map. The Pima County Department of Transportation also works closely with the Pima County Sheriff's Department on road closures.
As part of Operation Splash, The Tucson Department of Transportation and Mobility has been stationing barricades at dip crossings across Tucson.
There are 150 such crossings, and the city has set out 500 barricades. The county has set out similar barricades.
According to a 2017 analysis, Pima County was the eighth deadliest county in the nation for flood related deaths in the preceding 20 years. Both city and county officials make every effort to keep drivers safe, but there is always someone who disregards the barriers.
"There's a lot of unknowns when you approach a flooded dip crossing. You don't know how deep the water is. You don't know how damaged the roadway is underneath the water," said Erica Frazelle, Public Information Officer with the Tucson Department of Transportation and Mobility. "So we really ask motorists to do your part as well. If you approach a flooded wash way, turn around, don't drown."
The city is also offering free self-fill sandbags at Hi Corbett. However, people you wish to pick-up sand must bring their own shovel and bags.
Pima County offers five sandbag stations, click here for locations.